Why is it always brought up that prophecy will cease?


My question is regarding prophecy.  It seems I always get the same answer regarding this question (I Corinthians 13:8), "Love never fails, but whether there are prophecies they will fail, tongues will cease, knowledge will vanish," (not an exact quote). But if you take this one verse literally, if prophecies have come to an end, wouldn't you also have to say that knowledge has vanished too? It seems like this one verse according to the churches of Christ wipes out all the other written words regarding prophesy because it continues to go on in this same book regarding prophecies.  I Corinthians 14:1, "Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy." I Corinthians 14:22, "Prophesy is for believers" (not an exact quote).  It just seems to be so much written about prophecy in the New Testament.  Do you believe all prophesy is bad or evil?

Many thanks to you for your thoughts.


Would you care to make reference to the verse that says prophecy would continue to the end of the age? You must know of one because you assume that this mysterious verse contradicts what Paul said, "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away" (I Corinthian 13:8). The reason this verse is cited is that Paul does specify that the spiritual gifts were temporary. No other verse states otherwise. Yes, I Corinthians 12-14 discuss the role spiritual gifts played in the church. But a discussion of it doesn't mean they must continue. There are many passages talking about the apostles, but that doesn't imply that there are modern-day apostles.

The problem the Corinthians had was pride in their spiritual gifts. I Corinthians 12-14 put those gifts into proper perspective -- their service to the church, how they did not make one brother better than another, how they and many other things were worthless without love, how they were temporary, and how showy gifts, such as speaking in tongues, were not nearly as important as gifts that could build up the church, such as prophecy. Despite all this instruction, you still have people insisting on the opposite. They put a lot of emphasis on having gifts, even when they don't have gifts. They say that those who don't have gifts are less than those who do, they insist they are permanent, and they put a lot of emphasis on showy displays. Some people just refuse to learn.

People spoke in multiple languages prior to the gift of tongues from the Holy Spirit. What makes tongues a gift was that the speaker did not have to learn another language in order to communicate with another person. Knowledge existed before the Spirit gave the gift of knowledge. What made the gift of knowledge unusual is that a person was able to know things without having to first build up the experience.

Love remains, but the spiritual gifts were temporary. Prophecy, speaking on what God wanted to be said (Exodus 4:15-16); tongues, speaking to other people in their own language without learning it; and knowledge, information without experience, all would end. Paul is not saying God’s word would fail to come about, or that languages would cease to be used, or that people would stop knowing things. He is saying the giving of God’s word, the ability to speak in other languages without study, and the ability to know things without experience would no longer be supplied to God’s people. The miraculous nature of these gifts would come to an end.

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (I Corinthians 13:9-10).

The reason for the cessation is that they were at best partial. Those who were given knowledge knew facts they needed at the moment, but they didn’t know all. Those who prophesied were told what needed to be said, but it wasn’t everything. These partial abilities were given to fill in a gap until the perfect comes.

The word “perfect” translates the Greek word teleion. It means something that has been brought to completion, complete, entire, having attained its end or purpose. It is used in the idea of a person who has grown to adulthood. Hence, it can refer to spiritual maturity as in, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4), which gives a good definition of the word. It does not mean without flaw, as we often use the word “perfect” today.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (I Corinthians 13:11).

The spiritual gifts were temporary measures to bring about maturity. That is why Paul stated that as a child you talk, think, and reason as children, but when you grow up the childish things are put aside. The same thing would happen with spiritual gifts.

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (I Corinthians 13:12).

Things at the moment appear to be riddles, which is what “dimly” means in I Corinthians 13:12. It is the medium that causes the difficulty. Like a poor mirror, the spiritual gifts gave an incomplete view of everything a Christian needed. Later we’ll be seeing things directly with no mirror in between. Later I’ll know things accurately, as accurately as I know myself.

Paul states that when that which is perfect (complete, mature) comes, then the part would end. In both Greek and English, the phrase indicates that some object or concept which is perfect, complete, and mature arrives. It is not referring to a person. We know that spiritual maturity is brought about by the word of God (II Timothy 3:16-17, “perfect” here is a synonym Greek word, artios). James calls it the perfect law, the same word for “maturity” that we have seen before.

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:21-25).

Notice that many of the same themes are stated in James. People who look into the complete, perfect, mature law of liberty are able to see accurately.

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (I Corinthians 13:9-10).

At the time Paul penned I Corinthians, the law of liberty was still being revealed. It hadn’t yet fully arrived. When it was written in full and distributed, the need for the temporary and incomplete measures would come to an end.

What is evil is when people pretend to have something that they do not. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). They are leading people away from the truth to follow after their own vain imaginations.


Thanks for your wisdom on Scripture regarding prophecy. I feel I understand better now.

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